For a craft built on finding answers and communicating them, you would think that journalism might be a little easier to figure out. But, no.
Journalism career management is largely a mystery.
Who makes hiring decisions?
What do editors, general managers and digital directors want?
Where is this transforming industry heading?
When should I disclose my references—or alert them?
Why do some employers ask for a personal essay?
How do I get a raise?
Yes, five W’s and an H with plenty more of each. The news media are not very transparent to the people who work in them.
I became the recruiter at the Detroit Free Press in 1990 and began learning some answers from the inside, first with Knight Ridder and then with Gannett. In 1997, having heard some of the same questions from people all around the country, I launched the JobsPage web site to help people with their career strategies. I wanted a one-stop career shop for all journalists—even the ones I could not reach physically.
The JobsPage’s Ask the Recruiter feature spun off in 2003 and grew, becoming an independent source of advice. Poynter.org’s Career Center adopted it in 2006 and the questions keep rolling, one each weekday.
This book takes the best of Ask the Recruiter and organizes it in a way that the Web really can’t. As you would expect, I have done some editing to whip Ask the Recruiter into book form. In most cases, names and specifics are omitted to protect the questioners, but details have not been added or changed. As news media change and as I learn more, I have updated some of my answers. Some people begin their questions with very nice thank-yous. While I appreciate that, I have omitted them to make room for more questions. Some questions have been tightened and some answers sharpened. Time references—“since May”—have been changed—“for two months now”—so that they make sense without the time stamping that the Web affords. I have also trimmed references that questioners make to earlier answers, as this book is not sequential and the earlier question might not even appear. Of course, another round or two of editing always helps.
I have to say, I am humbled to find myself in a position where I may provide a grain of hope or help to fellow journalists. I know my answers don’t always hit the mark or they might reflect just my own perspective, but I try to listen and respond.
Of course, when I need help, I turn to other recruiters. Some are in this book, writing essays at the beginning of each chapter. I asked them to give you their thoughts on the subjects in those chapters, providing some context for the questions and answers that follow. Some provide good prescriptions for success. Some wrote intensely personal essays. They add tremendous value to the book version of Ask the Recruiter and I am grateful to them. I’d also like to thank my copy editors. It has taken three to keep me in order: Naughton Fellows Leann Frola and Mallary Tenore for Poynter.org; and Lynn Louie, who edited the book. Thanks, too, to Jim Stem for the cover photo.
I hope The Best of Ask the Recruiter answers most of your questions, and I stand ready to answer the ones it doesn’t. Look for Ask the Recruiter in Poynter’s Career Center at www.Poynter.org.
Joe Grimm teaches journalism and works with student groups as a visiting journalist at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He was newsroom recruiter and staff development editor at the Detroit Free Press from 1990 until August 2008. During those years he also worked with corporate recruiting teams at Gannett and Knight Ridder. Grimm coordinated staff and intern selection, training and education for the Free Press newsroom. He has interviewed hundreds of people, reviewed thousands of job candidates on paper and recruited at dozens of job fairs and college campuses. In 1993, he established an annual jobs fair.
Grimm published two books in 2007. Breaking In is a guide to landing and acing newspaper internships; Bringing the News is a collection of vintage postcard images of newspaper hawkers.
Grimm created 100 Questions and Answers About Arab-Americans in 2000. He posted that guide the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and it became a timely and heavily trafficked online publication.
Grimm joined the Free Press in 1983 and has been a copy editor, news editor, front-page designer, weekend editor and ombudsman. He began his newspaper career at the Oakland Press in Michigan where he was a copy editor, wire editor, copy desk chief, page-one designer, regional editor and associate editor. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and a teaching certificate from the University of Michigan.
He has been an adjunct professor at Oakland University since about 1980. He has taught media editing, copy editing, basic reporting, editorial writing and photojournalism.